The WWE has been trying to keep up with the times, not only in the sense that this year has become a crapshoot, but they’re also attempting to modernize the brand for the younger demographic. I totally get what they’re trying to do. They saw AEW get away with their version of the “live audience” so they copied what they did and put in their developmental wrestlers in the crowd. I’m not totally on board with how boring their live crowd looks like but it’s a start.
Another kind of project the WWE has been dabbling in are the production of more “cinematic” matches. These are the matches which have been pre-taped and edited for various reasons. This is done to add more of a movie-like quality to them or so they can splice in some comedic bits without destroying the “illusion” of what professional wrestling is. To their credit, they have put on some fantastic productions like the Corporate Money in the Bank Ladder Match at Money in the Bank, the Greatest Wrestling Match Ever at Backlash and the Boneyard Match at this year’s Wrestlemania.
However, I think the WWE is dipping into the well too often now. Since Wrestlemania, we’ve had at least 1 of these things and, as much as I like a good “cinematic” match, they’re going to wear it to the ground.
For those not in the know, a wrestling “cinematic” match is basically a professional wrestling match but it’s one that breaks most of the rules of your regular wrestling match. There can be special effects, background music or even times when the wrestlers will break the fourth wall. Anything goes in a “cinematic” match! It’s professional wrestling but with the ridiculousness and intensity levels cranked up to 11.
You would think most pro wrestling fans hate “cinematic” matches as, most of the time, but the opposite it true. I will acknowledge the most hardcore of wrestling fans despise them but most modern wrestling fans, including myself, have grown to embrace them. While they do break the “illusion” of wrestling as being some realistic competition, the tradeoff of them being generally fun makes them acceptable.
However, there is another factor which makes them special. That is the fact that “cinematic” matches weren’t done all that often. There was a certain amount of care and insane amount of planning that used to go into a “cinematic” match. The really good ones weren’t just thrown together at the last minute. Rather, a lot of things have to go right for a “cinematic” match to succeed.
Take The Final Deletion, the first real mainstream “cinematic” match and the one to show wrestling fans how insane and insanely fun they can be. This had “Broken” Matt Hardy summon his brother, Jeff, to the Hardy Compound to see who would take control of the Hardy name. What followed was the most creative feat of sports entertainment of its time.
What most fans don’t see in The Final Deletion is the amount of care Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy put into crafting the story, both leading up to it as well as in the match itself. There was a lot of buildup to The Final Deletion and it was supposed to conclude the feud between the two brothers. The actual match, if you can call it that, was also well executed with some fine storytelling, starting with “Broken” Matt Hardy he would restore honor to the Hardy name by “expunging” Jeff Hardy. It even created its own universe with Vanguard 1 being a sentient drone and the Lake of Reincarnation. They were stories but they also built things up for future stories.
Doing all of that does take some planning and some foresight. This also could just be Matt and Jeff Hardy throwing ideas on the wall and seeing what sticks. Either way, The Final Deletion was a huge success and the WWE actually tried to copy it right away with the Wyatt Family Compound match… and the less we talk about it, the better. That was a long time ago and, after Matt Hardy signed with the WWE and showed them how it’s done with The Ultimate Deletion, the WWE did start to figure out how to properly execute “cinematic” matches decently. After that, they did produce the aforementioned Boneyard match and Corporate Money in the Bank matches.
However, those felt special because you can tell a lot of care when into those productions. This is especially true for the Boneyard match as there was a lot of care put into the production. The lighting was fantastic. The editing was well done. The special effects were on point. Even the actual wrestling/stunts were fun to watch. You can tell a lot of time was put into making sure the Boneyard match was done right.
Now, it seems like the WWE is just churning out “cinematic” matches because they know it’s what the “in” thing is right now. I mean, just in a span of a week, they had the abysmal Swamp Fight during Extreme Rules and the just okay Bar Fight during Smackdown. That’s two “cinematic” matches in a short span of time!
The Swamp Fight was too confusing and there weren’t any cool moments to write home about, sans the Alexa Bliss moment. There wasn’t even a whole lot of wrestling or fighting there as well! That was supposed to be your main event for a pay-per-view? The Bar Fight didn’t really have to be one as it was basically just a No Holds Barred match done in a bar. The only reason why it needed to be a “cinematic” match was for Jeff Hardy to transform into his Willow persona I guess?
Both matches feature the same problem: a lack of focus. The Swamp Fight was all about telling a story that I couldn’t figure out the point of and the Bar Fight was just your typical No Holds Barred match! They were “cinematic” matches for the sake of putting out a “cinematic” match! The former could’ve just been a promo video like Bray Wyatt’s Firefly Funhouse segments and the latter was another match disguised as a “cinematic” match! What’s worse is both matches just didn’t feel special anymore because, in truth, they weren’t.
I’m not calling for the WWE to put a ban on “cinematic” matches. However, what I am saying is for them to not put a quota on the number of cinematic matches they have to do. Maybe if they have an idea which can only work as a “cinematic” match, they they should go for it, but they should really take a careful look at if they have enough material to warrant producing such a thing.
I guess the best advice is to look at what their competitors are doing with the “cinematic” match concept. A good example is AEW and their recent Stadium Stampede match. It was goofy, fun and featured some great wrestling as well. The most important things, however, were the Stadium Stampede had a running story to follow and really needed editing behind the scenes to make the story work. I mean, I can’t believe it would be possible for Matt Jackson to perform the Locomotion suplex for 90 yards!
Of course, this is the WWE we’re talking about. I wouldn’t be surprised if they grind the “cinematic” match gimmick to the ground until fans become sick of them. Then they’ll wonder why we stopped loving “cinematic” matches.
How do you think the WWE is handing “cinematic” matches? Let me know in the comments section below!